The owners of Blue Kudzu Sake Company, located in the River Arts District, announced today that “with heavy hearts” the sake “will stop flowing” on April 18.
“Despite the positive reception of our products,” including a feature in Dancyu Magazine, Japan’s national food and wine magazine, “we have failed to secure a large enough marketshare to make our operation profitable,” wrote the owners on April 14. “An extended and lengthy permitting process prevented our products from reaching the market in a timely manner, depleting our cash reserves and setting the stage for a collapse due to under-capitalization.”
In an April 2014 Xpress article, beer writer Thom O’Hearn reported that “there are only a handful of independently owned sake breweries in the United States (fewer than 10 at last count). So adding two within the Asheville city limits — within about a mile of each other, no less — is a pretty big deal.”
But even a year ago, the article hints at trouble: Co-owner Cat Ford-Coates was quoted talking about the sake brewery’s permitting issues, saying, “We were actually supposed to be brewing our own sake sooner, but our permitting took about three times as long as it was slated to.”
Blue Kudzu owners wrote that it simply took too long for the brewery to open, and the lack of foot-traffic at night in the RAD escalated the problem. “Once we were able to get our sake to market, we just were not able to create enough sales to hit a break-even point or replenish our cash reserves.”
With Blue Kudzu closing, Ben’s American Sake Brewery (at Ben’s Tune-Up) in South Slope remains Asheville’s only local sake producer.
“We wish at this time to say thank you to all of our local fans and customers, as well as the travelers that made their way down the edge of the RAD just to try our products,” the owners continue in their Facebook post. “We appreciate and thank the restaurants and stores across North Carolina that carried our sake in their establishments. It has been an amazing journey the last 3 1/2 years leading up to this moment, [and] we have made some great friends and contacts in the sake world both domestically and abroad.”
The owners say the plan for the future is to open a small production-only facility to continue their passion of producing hand-crafted sake. But for now, they will take a break to come up with a viable plan.
For the facility’s last few days, April 16-18, all bottles will be 50 percent off, with an additional 10 percent off when purchasing six bottles or more.